Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Life Lessons From Abraham: The CEO Of a Startup Religion

Chapter 7: Secure Your Identity Part 15

Abraham was raised in ancient Sumeria, a world where the dominant culture was pagan.  Gods were everywhere, from Anu the sky god, to regional gods, to small amulets and magic charms that were a big part of everyday life.  Abraham’s cause was not simply a matter of a single divinity- it was a completely different way of life. And if we look at the number of followers as a scorecard, I think he was onto something.  According to the Big Religion Comparison Chart, there are 14 Million Jews, 2 Billion Christians and 1.3 billion Muslims on the planet, all of whom look at Abraham as the father of monotheism.   For those of us looking to bust  our modern idols, there is a lot we can learn from Abraham.

For Abraham, monotheism was not an abstract, metaphysical question about the number of deities.  Abraham was the CEO of a start up religion, and he was looking to change the world.  He had an unshakable identity and powerful personality that attracted followers.  And like any good startup CEO, he could lay out a vision and make others believe.  By intellectual reasoning, Abraham showed that something created by man should not become the object of worship.  For Abraham, there was one creator who put forth rules of right and wrong that did not change.  This was very different than the pagan world, where right and wrong changed depending on the deity, and is also different than the corporate world, where right and wrong behavior is defined by corporate culture.

As I argued in Chapter 2, the universal values are The Golden Rule tempered by The Rule of Self Preservation.  In the next post, we’ll look at the limitations of Abraham’s identity-based approach to change.

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Learn What a Recruiter Really Thinks About the Startup Experience

Chapter 6:  Corporate Culture -The Invisible Hand of the Company Part 3

The choice of company is the biggest single determinant of one’s work experience.  This is particularly true in start up companies.  In this post, I’ll share the “startup experience” from the perspective of “Jillian,” a recruiter for high tech companies.

“People go to work [for a start-up] sold on the idea that is will change the world, to better mankind in some fundamental way.  In return, they give over the vast majority of their waking time. It’s not uncommon to work 60-80 hrs.  It is assumed that on weekends people will be working.  Which means that people are sacrificing a tremendous amount of their personal life in terms of family relationships.  If you’re in that kind of scenario, there isn’t much room to do much except work, sleep, and occasionally eat. 

They often sacrifice compensation, in that they take a pay cut to get into a company where they are given a big equity state.  In my 30 years of recruiting, the companies that have actually gone public where the [workers] actually made any money,  I can count on one hand, probably even less.    

Some of these companies get acquired. [Many] of the people who made the technology attractive to the buyer are let go and laid off.  [The remainder] end up working for the bigger company with none of the sense of being the bigger fish in the little pond.  

[Other] companies don’t wind up being able to make a producible product because the marketing people oversell and the VC people pull the plug.  These people who have gone through this major sacrifice are literally left with nothing, yet I see people doing this over and over again. 

Psychologically speaking, it’s extraordinarily attractive to be a part of this cutting edge technology, [thinking] if you try your hardest, you can make it happen.  It’s communicated and bought into all the way down the line, including the secretaries, the people who clean the office.  Even those people see that it’s extraordinarily rare that the company will succeed and get this big payoff. 

I think many people stay away from startups because they don’t want to make this kind of personal trade off.   What is your experience?  Is Jillian’s perspective representative, and does it have to be that way?

In the next post, we’ll return to the story of Harry T. Lobo, the Wolf CEO from Chapter 4.  What happens when a person of high integrity is confronted by a toxic culture?

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